McKeon, Mukherji & Murphy Legislation to Help Disabled Residents and Seniors Pay Utility Bills Clears Assembly Panel

Bill Would Expand Lifeline Credit and Tenants’ Lifeline Assistance Programs

(TRENTON) – To ensure elderly and disabled residents have continued access to vital utilities like water and sewer service, an Assembly panel approved Monday a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Raj Mukherji and Carol Murphy that would expand the law to cover more residents and utilities under the Lifeline Credit and Tenants Lifeline Assistance Programs.

Under current law, the Lifeline Credit and Tenants’ Lifeline Assistance Programs provide annual benefits of $225 to help pay electric and gas utility bills for eligible residents participating in the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled Program (PAAD). It also aids individuals receiving benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program or the federal Social Security Act who also meet the requirements of PAAD.

“These programs currently provide a ‘lifeline’ to our most vulnerable residents who are unable to pay their electric and gas utilities,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “Water and sewer bills also can be a burden for residents on a fixed income. These utilities should also be included under Lifeline programs.”

The bill (A-2895) expands the capability of the Lifeline programs to provide water and sewer utility bill payment assistance for eligible customers. It also expands eligibility under those programs to include individuals receiving benefits under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This legislation was part of the recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure last January.

“A failure to address water affordability could lead to shutoffs, less hygienic living conditions, healthcare complications, and other serious consequences for our low-income families,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “By expanding Lifeline Assistance to include essential water and sewer assistance, this bill will help prevent degrading our neediest citizens.”

“A senior or disabled person should never worry about how they’ll keep the lights on, have running water, or access other utility services we may take for granted,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “A little extra help can go a long way in relieving the stress of paying the bills on a very fixed income.”

The bill would take effect during the seventh month following enactment.

The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee approved the measure; it will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.